In the prior blog on this topic, I explained that my definition being a “successful writer” has changed in the nearly four years I’ve been writing professionally. To review, here are the first three iterations.
My first definition of success was “get published.”
My second definition of success was “make money.”
My third definition of success was “getting books out.”
My fourth definition of success was “be patient, Grasshopper.”
In the third definition of success, I talked about the frenzied publishing schedule I fell victim to. Now I know that patient working with a book was a sign my maturation as an author.
There is no excuse or reason for publishing a book that is littered with errors in grammar, spelling, or sentence structure. There are ways to reduce the number of those types of errors without significant financial outlay. As stand-alone options, they each have value. Used collectively, these options have more value than the sum of the individual values.
Grammarly. I use only the free version. This does a very good job at pointing out grammar issues. It does not use the same algorithm as MSWord does for grammar. You’ll have to decide which of the “experts” you want to use for direction. The Premium upgrade carries with it a monthly fee. I don’t use that because I use Hemingway.
|Screenshot of a poorly edited file in Grammarly. Clicking on the "down arrow" opens a dialog window with suggested edits--you select the one you like. Clicking on the red or green print makes the change for you.|
Hemingway. The newest version of this inexpensive software provides feedback in dramatic fashion. It uses various colors to highlight issues in your manuscript.
|A screen shot of Hemingway. It's obvious where you need to consider your phraseology and sentence construction.|
Visual “tricks.” Near the end of my editing process, I use two features of Word in tandem.
First I color the background of my manuscript before editing.
This is a simple process. It’s not permanent. It forces your brain to see the words differently than the normal black print on the white background you use while writing. Some background colors leave the print black. Others—dark blue, purple, and black—generate your text in white. When your brain is working outside the “norm,” it will see mistakes you’ve missed up to that time—more errors are found.
Second, I zoom the size of the file on my screen to at least 200%.
This is another brain-fooling trick. The oversized print forces your brain to interpret the words in a different manner—more errors are found.
For maximum benefit, switch colors and zoom levels periodically. Remember, your brain will pay closer attention to what it perceives as a new form of data—more errors are found.
Used alone, none of these options is sufficient for preparing a novel-length manuscript for publication.
Collectively, these options are still insufficient for preparing a novel-length manuscript for publication.
Each of the above is a separate edit. Each of the above adds time to your writing process. “Be patient, Grasshopper.”
- “Be patient, Grasshopper.” Take time to wait until you can afford some level of professional editing or proofreading.
- “Be patient, Grasshopper.” Ask around. Find an editor or proofreader that has good relationships with several authors.
- “Be patient, Grasshopper.” Establish a timeline that allows you to use the professional without stressing you or badgering the editor/proofreader.
My current definition of success is being able “do what you do because you like what you’re doing.”
This sounds like
· I’ve turned my back on fame and fortune.
· I’ve turned my back on fortune.
· I’ve turned my back on productivity.
· I’ve turned my back on goals and deadlines.
Not one of those is the case.
What I have learned while writing and what I now consider to be successful writing is developing quality stories around characters people can identify with in a believable setting while navigating a well-constructed plot.
Manuscripts produced through this process can be successful
· regardless of the time involved in each venture.
· with or without the book being named to a “best-seller” list.
I’ve been working with student authors for two years. Watching them mature in their understanding of the writing process, reading the stories they have developed, and listening to their conversations about lessons they’ve learned have added credence to the appropriateness of my current definition.
I’m not naive enough to think that this is the last iteration of my definition of successful writing. I believe it could be. I could live the rest of my career defining my work in this way and be fulfilled.
But four years ago, I never consider the possibility of any definition of writing success except “get published.”